The Difference Between Value and Worth

This morning, I asked my husband to move the bed so I could make sure my engagement ring wasn’t beneath. It’s been missing for over a week. I tend to misplace things all the time (even sentimental, valuable things), and my sister-in-law pointed out that it’s a miracle I haven’t lost my rings before now, since I always take them off to wash dishes, put on lotion, give my children baths.

But this time feels different.

It’s strange because I never knew how much that ring meant to me. When we were living in Wisconsin, I became inspired by the hippies who eschewed jewelry not made from leather, bead, or bone and considered selling my engagement ring and giving the money to charity.

I wasn’t sure those diamonds were me anymore. But then I lost the ring, and like many things whose value we aren’t aware of until they’re gone, I could see the sentimental value of that ring far eclipsed its worth.

I sprawled across the bed this morning, after having once again looked in the closet, under the dresser, bed, and nightstand. My two-year-old walked over and asked, “Why you sad, Mommy?”

I held up my hand and twirled my wedding band. “I can’t find my other ring.”

She tilted her blond head and pooched out her lips in a toddler caricature of concern. Then her eyes suddenly widened, and she gasped. “I know where it is!” She took off, her little diapered bottom making swishing sounds as she ran.

I sat up, daring not to hope, but my heart beat a little faster anyway. I heard drawers opening and closing. I walked through the living room over to the nursery. I could tell my daughter was excited. Finally, she looked up and pointed. “There it is!”

I smiled as I looked on top of the dresser and saw the conch shell ring my mother had purchased for me as a Gulf Shores souvenir. My young daughters absolutely love going through my jewelry, and occasionally, I will give them a small piece to put in their jewelry boxes. I gave my four-year-old an abalone pendant; I gave my two-year-old that ring.

But my two-year-old misunderstood “jewelry box” and thought I meant dresser. A few days ago, when I was putting away her clothes, I found that ring, nestled on top of a tiny pair of jeans, and now my daughter thought that this was the ring I sought.

“Oh, thank you!” I exclaimed and examined it from all sides.

She nodded, delighted that she’d helped me. Later, I set that ring on top of my own dresser and looked at it. My husband playfully told me, while I was searching, that this is how it happens: one day, this beautiful home will fall down and someone will explore the rubble with a flashlight or a metal detector and will find my engagement ring.

They won’t know the story of how my husband proposed on the shore of Dale Hollow Lake while we ate hobo packs, the lights from his Will U Marry Me? exhibition coming on at exactly 7 o’clock and shimmering through the trees; they won’t know about the beautiful September day we wed on a horse ranch in Tennessee, and how he slipped another ring in front of my engagement one, and how my voice cracked with tears as I said my vows. They won’t know about how I lost that engagement ring, or how my toddler daughter was thrilled to help me find a $2 conch shell ring to replace it.

And that’s when I understood that there is a distinct difference between value and worth: value is what our memories give to an item; worth is the value the economy gives. Therefore, that conch shell ring is now as valuable as the diamonds my husband slipped onto my ring finger nine years ago.

Maybe even more so, because now, each time I look at that conch shell ring, I will think of all the memories that led up to that point.

What “worthless” items do you deem valuable?


Jolina is a wife, mama, daughter, friend, and oftentimes stubborn child of God who loves dramatic soundtracks, old books, new places, abandoned trails, people-watching, telling stories, pulling weeds, and petting chickens. She's glad you're here.

6 thoughts on “The Difference Between Value and Worth

  1. Dear Jolina,
    I am always blessed and sometimes humbled by your posts.
    I have been praying for you and your precious family for awhile now. So thankful God blessed you with the ability to put your life lessons into words!

    My life’s journey taught me a long time ago the difference between what is important and “stuff”. But there are surprises in those lost items sometimes… when I realized I hadn’t seen my mother’s ring in quite awhile, I searched everywhere. After giving up, it occurred to me (had to be God telling me) that the ring section of my jewelry box sometimes caught when it was opened. I somehow managed to get my arthritic fingers past the ring holder into the back and felt around. I was thrilled to find it, but wasn’t entirely certain I could get both my hand AND the ring dislodged. Though this ring was rather inexpensive, what it symbolizes in those 4 stones is precious to me .

    Have a blessed day!

    1. Oh, Trudy! What a blessing to know that someone I never met thinks and prays for our family. Truly warms my heart. May you be blessed tenfold for your kindness. And I’m so happy to hear you found your mother’s ring. I have a feeling my own will turn up one of these days. 🙂

  2. Thought that comes to mind is not my inexpensive but valuable to me it’s an item of my husband’s. He has his Dad’s pocket knife, some of the bone veneer is missing and probably cost less then a dollar when it was new. He has this knife in his pocket all the time. Most times he also carries a “back up” newer one. The old pocket knife is such a part of him he can never seem to remember to let it home or put it in checked luggage when we fly. TSA always sternly reminds him. So he has the same ritual practiced many times over. Gets out of security line wanders through the airport looking for any type employee he can find, and asks them if they will mail it home to him., gives them money for mailing and a reward for doing so, and eventually shows up at the gate I was given clearance to go to. It’s amazing to me that every time he’s done that, when we return from our trip the knife is already there. Problem is, this very inexpensive knife is becoming more expensive as the years move forward, have no idea how many reward dollars are now invested in it! :-). BTW Hope you still find your ring, I would be in panic mode!

    1. I love that story, Aunt Ruthie. It’s such a clear picture of Uncle Galen’s sentimentality and heart. You tell it beautifully. And I sure hope I feel my ring, too. 😉

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